Recommendations for Hands-free Headlamps, Lanterns and Area Lights

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We’re all familiar with basic handheld flashlights and how they generally work: switch for on/off and maybe different brightness levels. But their convenience is often their greatest drawback; they’re handheld—meaning that if you need more than one hand, you’re pretty much out of luck (unless you want to hold one in your mouth. Yuck). But there’s good news! We’re living in a future benefiting from advances in LED and battery technologies and there is a growing list of options for lightweight headlamps for hands-free illumination on the go and lanterns that easily light a wide area.

Let’s take a look at some of the latest, greatest, and most versatile options for when you’re off the grid and need to get stuff done in the dark.

Headlamps

Fenix is one of my favorite brands, and the HP30R is one of my favorite headlamps that this company makes. Defined by a wide output range from 5 to 1000 lumens, with multiple intensity levels divided into two modes, you can choose to light a large area right in front of you with the flood function or select the spotlight option to maximize the beam throw to light the trail far in front of you. The light head tilts through 60 degrees for precise beam placement exactly where you need it. All these outputs and options take a lot of power—two 18650 rechargeable or four CR123 disposable batteries—and there’s no comfortable way to carry those on your head without hurting your neck. Knowing this, Fenix put the batteries in a separate holder that clips onto a strap, belt, or pack.

Fenix Flashlight HP30R Rechargeable Headlamp

If you’re picky about the color temperature of your light for photographic purposes, O-light has a nice little multi-tasker: the H2R Nova Rechargeable Headlamp. Beyond an impressive output range, from 1 to 2300 lumens, the light is held onto the head strap by a simple rubber bungee that makes the light easy to remove and use as a 90-degree angled handheld light. The light also comes off so it can be recharged with its magnetic base (no plugs or covers to worry about). The Nova is offered in two models: Cool White and Neutral White.

Olight H2R Nova Rechargeable Headlamp

If you’re going to be doing some night photography, astronomy, or setting up before first light, you may want to consider lights in more colors than just white, since it can affect night-adjusted vision, disturb tent mates, and spook animals. Princeton Tec’s Eos Tactical headlight has a maximum output of 60 lumens that is great for most tasks, from reading to packing and setting up equipment, and comes with three colored filters: red, blue, and green. This lightweight headlight is waterproof to a depth of 3 feet, outfitted with a single pushbutton switch, and runs on easy-to-find AAA batteries.

Princeton Tec EOS Tactical Headlamp

Nitecore’s NU30 Rechargeable Headlamp is another option that’s perfect for different jobs. It has a powerful primary white, two auxiliary white, and two more red LEDs. The main one is responsible for the heavy lifting and outputs from a dim 1 lumen for reading to 400 lumens on Turbo. The primary light has a proprietary reflector that produces a wide 100-degree collimated beam that is even and consistent, without holes or hotspots. The auxiliary white LEDs have a high ≥ 90 Color Rendering Index so you’ll get realistic and accurate color representation of the illuminated spot, while the red ones preserve your night-adjusted vision without having to install a filter.

NITECORE NU30 Rechargeable LED Headlamp

Lanterns

If you’re looking to light a room, tent, campsite, or base camp, you have many options. Fenix makes its second appearance with the compact CL30R lantern. What I especially like about this one, in addition to its impressive 10 to 650-lumen output range, is its power and design versatility. Its LEDs are wired to the batteries in such a way that it can run on one, two, or three batteries—which means that if you start running out of batteries or want to conserve them, you can still have some illumination (just with lower output ranges versus having all three installed). If you need to add some power to your phone or camera battery, the lantern can also be used as a power pack via a USB port. A simple push-button switch, battery level indicator, and low-voltage warning round out the power features. From a design standpoint, the lantern is waterproof to 3', with a cold-resistant battery compartment to help extend battery life. Finally, the base comes off to reveal a standard ¼"-20 tripod mount that allows you to set it up as supplemental lighting anywhere (or for a photo shoot).

Fenix Flashlight CL30R Rechargeable Camping Lantern

Nitecore is back, as well, with the highly compact yet powerful LR10 Rechargeable Pocket Camping Lantern. Available in four color options, it outputs a respectable 250 lumens from 9 LEDs packed into a housing that measures 2.6x2x1" and weighs just 2.1 ounces. What sets this one apart from others (aside from its compact and lightweight design) is that the LEDs emit light at a color temperature of 4500K. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it’s the temperature that most resembles natural morning sunlight to reduce eye fatigue and cast a pleasing light tone to your surroundings, so the light is calming and easy on the eyes as opposed to the harsh light that most LEDs emit. A folding hook and magnetic base offer multiple mounting options. The lantern is IP66-rated to be dust proof, water resistant against driving water and rain to withstand inclement weather, and impact resistant to nearly 5 feet.

NITECORE LR10 Rechargeable Pocket Camping Lantern

Designed to look more like a conventional camping lantern, the Streamlight Siege puts your old incandescent lantern to shame. Four white LEDs provide full 360-degree illumination with a diffuser cover to soften the light and make it more comfortable to look at, while two red LEDs provide light while preserving night-adjusted vision. Take the diffuser off and the full 200 lumens of light flood a wide area for when you need to see more. Ideal for camping and boating, the light is waterproof and submersible but, since it also floats, you’d have to work really hard to get it underwater. For power, it runs on three ubiquitous AA batteries, so you can raid your remote control if you’re in a pinch when a storm knocks out your power.

Streamlight Siege AA Lantern

A leader in consumer solar power products, Goal Zero offers an impressive multi-tasker disguised as a lantern: the Lighthouse 400 Lantern and USB Power Hub. Two powerful LEDs provide 360-degree illumination with the option to only use one to save power. An internal battery can be recharged by plugging it into a standard USB wall charger, most portable solar panels, or from a fold-out hand crank. That same battery can be used to charge your cell phone or give a boost of power to a tablet. All of this, and the Lighthouse measures just 4.5 x 5 x 6.5".

GOAL ZERO Lighthouse 400 Lantern & USB Power Hub

For lighting large areas like job sites or command centers, Pelican deserves an honorable mention. Their 9420XL ProGear LED Work Light Kit is highly portable and powerful, with a freestanding base and 5-foot mast to put the light above the work surface for a wider spread. It comes with two batteries that will run the light for 4 hours each, and a charging station. A hard carrying case makes it easy to pack and carry. For maximum coverage, go with the Remote Area Lighting (RAL) System. Available with standard light-duty or all-terrain heavy-duty wheels, the RAL floods large areas with 12,000 lumens on two telescoping light heads running on a rechargeable battery bank. The two heads rise to more than six feet in height, swivel 360°, and can run from 3-24 hours on a charge, depending on the output level. They can be operated via Bluetooth remote control from a smartphone app and employ an Intelligent Control System, which displays current battery level and allows the user to regulate light output and choose the desired run time. Two USB output ports can be used to run or charge smartphones and other devices.

Pelican 9420XL ProGear LED Work Light Kit with Case

From hands-free illumination on the go to lighting up entire rooms, whatever job you have, there is a solution for you right here at B&H. Pick up one of my suggestions or browse our extensive offerings to find your perfect fit—and if you need further help give us a call, hit the chat button, or leave a comment below and we’ll help any way we can.

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